We had settled into the school and spent the rest of the day building up some sort of housing units. Each one of us claimed a classroom for ourselves, knowing that if our numbers grew we might have to share rooms with others. Yet by the end of the first night all three of us were back together sharing one class room, taking sections of the room but gathering together to eat near the center. After having complained for weeks about not having privacy, being alone in the silence and dark, without street lights, without the sound of cars, or electricity, and knowing that things that go bump in the night might want to take a piece out of you was too much. I would be lying if I said I was not happy to see Beebles and Malkoris rejoin me in the room I had taken.

Beebles and I blocked off the windows to darken the room and then we lit candles. Malkoris took to drawing on the chalkboards and creating art as an outlet for his own personal angst. At first I was angry to see happier scenes drawn out in chalk but Beebles took me aside and reminded me that with so much destruction around us I did not have to look far to see bad. Why not feed my soul with something that brings joy for a change. After that I had nothing negative to say about his efforts. I had taken over an English classroom and found a book of poetry to read. I flipped it open towards the back of the book picking a poem at random. I knew the blood drained from my face though I said nothing because one glance at me had Beebles sway a bit away from me. This book must have belonged to the teacher not for the use of the studies, for this was way too heavy hearted a poem for children. It was likely more a book from a college or university level class.

I had stumbled upon the poem “Dead Boy” by John Crow Ransom, a poet who passed away in 1974. The poem describes the death of a child, either the only or the youngest born late to an old woman. It was the second verse that caught my eye:

A boy not beautiful, nor good, nor clever,

A black cloud full of storms too hot for keeping,

A sword beneath his mother’s heart – yet never

Woman bewept her babe as this weeping

My mind struggled with the images since the outbreak. The pictures that first appeared in magazines, while still in print, of mothers crying out and reaching for their children, their infected young, as they were taken away by soldiers. I felt tears in my eyes recalling how often I saw some haunted eyed individual and had no sympathy towards them despite their losses. And we had all lost something, a part of our humanity with this twisted war, genocide upon humankind of all race, religion and creed. All lost to something so small we cannot see it with the naked eye, but it wears the face of our loved ones, of our neighbours and our enemies alike. Enemies? What sense is there in hating the living now? We are all that we have left.

I wiped the tears away and closed the book. Setting it aside, I considered committing it to the fire burning in the metal trash can within the room that was keeping us warm, but I did not. There is so much destruction around us already, Beebles is right. I know within that book there is beauty too. I just need to find my courage and search for it. My very soul needs to feed upon it and regain that which I tossed aside too easily, compassion, warmth, fellow feeling and forgiveness. If we are to survive as a species we need to remember what sets us aside from brutes and beasts.

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